From conifer plantation to blanket bog: Peatland restoration in the Flow Country

Many blanket bogs were damaged in the past by the inappropriate planting of conifer trees: How should these areas best be restored?

 RSPB Forsinard Flows; view from visitor trail, including snow-capped Ben Griam, Highland, Scotland. November 10, 2010.


Restoring afforested blanket bog is a core part of RSPB work at Forsinard Flows RSPB reserve in the Flow Country of northern Scotland.  It is also an increasingly important form of conservation management elsewhere.
This 'forest-to-bog' restoration is expected to benefit biodiversity, both within restored areas, and by reducing forestry impacts on adjacent bogs.  It should also help mitigate climate change, by improving the protection of the huge peatland stores of soil carbon.
It is important to identify optimal techniques of 'forest-to-bog' restoration, so we can create restored areas which match less damaged peatlands in their delivery of multiple ecosystem services.


  • Test the relative effectiveness of leading approaches to 'forest-to-bog' peatland restoration, comprising tree removal and the blocking of drains and furrows, in delivering key ecosystem services; biodiversity, carbon storage, and water quality.
  • Compare the provision of these ecosystem services by restored areas, with those provided by comparable areas which are either (i) blanket bogs that were never damaged by afforestation; or (ii) standing forestry on deep peat.

Key Dates

  • 1997: Restoration of former forestry plantations begins at Forsinard reserve; the first monitoring schemes established.
  • Early 2000s: The first major phase of forest-to-bog restoration; expanded monitoring established.
  • 2012: Start of a second major phase of forest-to-bog restoration; expansion of monitoring to include carbon, climate and water related outcomes.


A 'chronosequence' (a set of forested sites that share similar attributes but are of different ages) of restoration areas has been established, allowing the rate of restoration progress to be estimated. A number of trials are under way comparing different restoration techniques. Between RSPB and our scientific partners, a range of restoration outcomes are being measured. These focus on biodiversity and climate interactions (carbon fluxes, water).

Planned Work

Forest to bog restoration is a long term process; we plan continued monitoring with regular re-evaluation of outcomes.


Coast on a stormy day

Dr Mark Hancock

Senior Conservation Scientist, Conservation Science
Coast on a stormy day

Dr David Douglas

Principal Conservation Scientist, Conservation Science
Coast on a stormy day

Trevor Smith

Senior Research Assistant (Out-posted), Conservation Science
Tagged with: Habitat: Heathland Habitat: Upland Habitat: Wetland Species: Dunlin Species: Golden plover Species: Greenshank Project status: Ongoing Project classification: Ongoing Project types: Research